Carlos Plummer's & Beth Strasser's Unpolished Newsletter for 2006 (placed online December, 2007)

For photos, click here

(Narrative by Carlos.)2006 arrived for us in Disneyland. Quite a spectacle with more than the usual fireworks, parade and fake snowfall. Real rain earlier in the evening. Returned to our hotel for a reasonable amount of sleep and flew back to Sacramento.

In March, during Beth's spring break, we spent a few days in California's Santa Cruz-Monterey region. The first day we drove to Santa Cruz hoping to go to the Boardwalk (amusement park) but discovered that it is closed this time of year. We took photos of beach erosional features and let Dustin splash around in the frigid ocean. We spent the night in Watsonville, in the heart of artichoke country. We spent the next two nights as guests of Lyn Neale and husband George Olson (famous for the sail boats he made a few years back). They live in the country outside of the small town of Aromas. Lyn joined Beth, Dusty, and me in a visit to CSU's marine lab at Moss Landing and then the Monterey Aquarium. Great aquarium, especially the squid and jellyfish displays. George met us in the evening at Moss Landing for a memorable restaurant meal.
Next day we drove into San Jose to visit the Technology Museum. There, we watched an IMAX show on the Mars rovers. Besides the interactive exhibits, we each were able to jump on a Seguey (the personal transporter that threw W off, to the chagrin of the Secret Service and the approval of many of us ordinary citizens). Fun–too bad they cost so much to buy. We returned to Aromas for a nice curry dinner by Lyn. We drove back to Sacto the next day.

In May, Charlie and I flew to Florida, taking advantage of a free SW Airlines rapid rewards ticket. We flew into Tampa then drove a rental car south to Bradenton, where my Sister, Sandra, now lives. She moved from Florida's east coast to its west coast about a year ago. While there we occasionally lounged on white sand beaches, visited a state park featuring alligators, went to an aquarium and saw the underwater activity of two, large manatees (they eat 70 lbs. of lettuce each day). We, along with Sandra's significant other, Ernie, went to a funky place along a river bank that featured a banjo band, food and drink beneath moss-covered oak trees on a hot midday. One day, we drove to St. Petersburg and went through the Salvador Dali Museum. Then went on to Ybar City, which is the historic, former cigar-making district in Tampa–a lot of old New Orleans type of architecture and a Cuban flavor. We visited the homes of Sandra's two daughters in nearby Saratoga. On Mothers Day, Sandra's daughters and families came over for brunch. Later in the day, my niece, Kim, and family drove down from St. Pete to visit us for supper. Flew back to Sacto via Chicago and Kansas City–a typical SWA transcontinental route.

On July 14, (French anthem please!) Beth, Dustin, and I left Sacto in Beth's Forester up I-5 for the Northwest–our most ambitious trip of the year. We spent the first night at the picturesque town of Mt. Shasta, on the flanks of its namesake volcano. Supper at an Italian restaurant that had exceptional minestrone.
Next day we continued on I-5 northward. We stopped at Ashland, OR and wandered around the venue for the Shakespeare festival. Continued northward through Portland and Vancouver, WA to the nearby town of Battle Ground. There we spent the night with Dan and Lois Miller. I've known Dan since University of Washington (UW) days and lengthy ski trips. Dan lives in a community of flyers whose homes surround a private runway. Dan, retired from the USGS, had, that very day, finished his project of three years–building a high performance airplane (an RV-6). He would take it on its maiden flight the next day, after we departed. Dinner and drinks were up to their expected high standards. Dan cooked an excellent roast leg of lamb which was accompanied by fine wines.

We departed late the next morning. We turned off I-5 traveling east to what we thought was the road to the overlook into Mt. St. Helens' blasted out crater on the volcanoes north side. About 45 miles later it occurred to me that we were on the south side. So we returned to I-5 and drove on to the correct exit. Went through the poorly maintained (by the US Forest Service) Visitors Center just off of I-5. Saw a old and scratchy video that featured interviews with our Sac State faculty colleague in the Humanities Dept., Steve Harris (he authors books on volcanoes as well as textbooks on the Bible). We drove on the Johnston Ridge Overlook, with a great view into the crater and the dome, which was emitting steam from the lava in the growing dome. (I last saw the dome as a passenger in Dan Miller's ‘30s vintage open air biplane. Dan flew it into the crater and around the dome.) We returned to I-5, which we took to Olympia for a tardy arrival at the home of Pete and Connie Sinclair. (I've know Pete since Dartmouth, notably from the fabled Dartmouth Mountaineering Club, Teton climbing, graduate school at UW, skiing. He retired as a professor of English and Sailboat Building at Evergreen State College. I met Connie at Jackson Hole where we both were in the ski patrol at the old ski area.) We indulged in Pete's acclaimed martinis and another excellent dinner.
The next morning we realized that we would become slaves to the Washington State Ferry schedule. So we rushed off at 10:30 to try and get on the 2:30 ferry at Anacortes going to the San Juan Islands in northern Puget Sound. Drove north on I-5, through Seattle without stopping. We got to the Anacortes ferry terminal 45 minutes before scheduled departure. When I paid for our ticket, the clerk said it was "iffy" that we would get onboard. We waited in a long line of cars but did get on board. Lovely trip weaving around the tree covered islands. We passed by Orcas Island where I had taken the UW field geology course in 1963. We got off at Lopez Island. Drove around some of the roads for a bit then located Jon and Carol Avent's house, built in woods with a stunning view high above the shoreline. I knew Jon from UW and skiing. He is a retired geology professor and Carol a retired nursing professor at CSU Fresno. Come to think of it all three of our hostesses so far have been nurses. We joined the Avents at a nearby dinner party. Among the many people there were Ian and Joanne Lange. I had known Ian from Dartmouth–he was 2 or 3 years behind me in the geology program, but got to know him much better in grad school at UW. Another in the group that skied a lot. He began his professorial career at Fresno State and finished it at U. of Montana.
At 8:30 the next morning I drove Beth's car to the ferry terminal to leave the car in line for the 10:00 ferry. This was to be sure the car would be 1 of the quota of 20 for this particular ferry. Jon gave me a ride back to his house and later took the 3 of us back for us to catch the ferry. We drove east into the North Cascades and the geologically and scenically spectacular terrain in the national park and along the Skagit River.
Late in the day, we returned to I-5 and drove north to Bellingham where we stayed with Scott Babcock and wife, Marca in a nice house overlooking Lake Whatcom. Scott is a geology professor and Chair at Western Washington U. Scott also went to Dartmouth but was a few years behind me, so I didn't meet him until he went to grad school at UW. Scott was also along on memorable ski trips to the Rocky Mountains. He was also a co-investigator with me in Antarctica in 1981-82. Later that year we co-investigated wineries near Adelaide, Australia during an international Antarctic geologic conference.
The next morning we headed south on I-5. In Seattle, we briefly visited Kent and Sunny Kammerer. They were renovating a home to rent out. Kent is a renaissance man who taught junior high school, but was also a painter, photographer, inventor and fixer of most anything. Sunny was a nurse at Harborview Hospital. We got back on I-5 and drove to Portland where we visited Kurt Wehbring and wife, Donna. Kurt was a Dartmouth classmate, but not a geology student. He was a climber and member of DMC. One of the last rock climbs I ever did was with Kurt in Yosemite, shortly after I moved to Sacramento. Donna was a high school teacher. After supper, we walked to a nearby park to kick a soccer ball around with Dusty. Afterwards we had a campfire in their backyard and Dusty got to sleep in a tent.
The next morning we drove to downtown Portland, parked and took trolleys around while Kurt described the architecture and sights. We were impressed with Portland as a very resident friendly place to live. After returning, we had lunch prepared by Donna.
This was the end of the line for Dustin. We drove to the airport and put him on a plane to Sacto. He would be staying with a family in Davis, CA and going with them to the Sierra Nevada. Beth and I drove east along the Columbia River until we were east of the Cascades, then south to Bend, OR, where we had supper. We reached the campground at Newberry Craters around 10 p.m. and found members of the annual field trip of the Volcanologic Society of Sacramento (VSSAC). Put up tent in dark.
The next morning (21 July) the field trip got off to a slow start with the late arrival of the leader. We drove to the top of Paulina Peak, for a spectacular view of the two lakes that occupy volcanic craters within a large caldera. Paulina Peak is the highest point on the rim of the caldera. The dominant feature in the caldera is the Big Obsidian Flow, a great lobe of a lava flow that was emitted from the caldera's rim. We took a strenuous, several hour hike to a ridge to see some pyroclastic features. Later, driving along the main highway we got lost from the group. Later rejoined them at Lava River Cave, a lava tube. We diverted to buy gas and return to camp at a civilized time, which was fortunate as the group didn't get back until 8 p.m. The group preparing supper then had to start preparing food.
Next day we drove to base of Big Obsidian Flow and hike part way up it on a trail. Drove to Little Crater Lake. The projected 2 hour hiking loop started and we got as far as the crater rim. Steve, our leader, announced we would descend and bushwack up the next cone. The USFS geologist that had joined us told him he was crazy, but most of the group had already headed down. (They would take 4 hours for the jaunt.) A few of us followed Bob, the USFS geologist, down to Lake Paulina which had a wave-cut terrace that has been tilted since it formed. We followed the shoreline back to our cars. As Beth and I were making spaghetti for the group for supper, we drove into Bend and bought food. We returned to camp at began cooking at 5:30. The rest of the group arrived around 6:30.
Julie Donnelly-Nolan with the USGS at Menlo Park, along with two USFS geologists directed the trip the next day. Things went smoothly and on time. We began at scenic Paulina Falls. Then drove to Little Red Hill, a combination cinder and spatter cone, which we climbed. Then we drove to one of the highlights of the trip–Potholes Flow. This is a basalt flow that was inflated in the middle by a later supply of lava. This lifted the older, solidified flow and tilted the edges downward. Several more interesting stops before ending at the top of Pilot Butte, overlooking Bend. Good view of the volcanic mountains of the Oregon Cascades. Pizza and beer supper with the group in Bend before driving back to camp.
We broke camp the next morning. Beth and I accompanied the group to the nearby first stop, then said our goodbyes and split. The rest spent another half day on geology before heading south. We drove to Crater Lake, which Beth had never been to and I hadn't visited for decades. We entered the National Park from the north and drove along the western rim drive to the visitor center and for lunch. We drove north again to the only trail that leads to the shoreline. We had hoped to get on the boat ride to Wizard Island (a cinder cone) but would have had to wait to long. We hike the steep trail to the lake's edge in 25 minutes. We semi-submerged ourselves in the icy lake to cool off. It took us 40 minutes to hike back up, not as bad as we had anticipated. We continued south along the eastern rim drive, stopping at various overlooks for photos. We followed highways south to Klamath Falls. There we stayed at a pleasant Quality Inn.
After a leisurely departure the next day we had a long, but uneventful days drive to Sacto.

For most of this year, I have been at my desk cranking out yet another revision to my physical geology textbook. For there top texbooks, McGraw-Hill demands revisions on a 2 year cycle. The 11th edition rolled off the presses in December, 2005 and I had to have the revised manuscript for the 12th edition finished by the end of December 2006. Early in 2007 I will have to resume work by correcting new art work, getting and reshooting some photos, and proofreading. We're hoping to find someone who we can phase in to replace me as coauthor.

Charlie turned 31 this year. His disability due to schizophrenia continues. He spends most of his time with us. He took ceramic classes at Sac City College. The real bright spot in his life is his taking organ lessons at a church downtown. His mother had won a church auction prize of a lesson on the grand organ from the organ master. The organist was amazed at how quickly he took to the organ. Its been well over a decade since Charlie has seriously played a piano, but he seems to have retained his keyboard skills. The organist, who needs written music, is amazed at Charlie's ability to play by ear. I enjoy his weekly organ lesson. Its not really a lesson and not all organ. Usually, Brad, the organist plays a piece by Vivaldi, Bach, Handel or more modern composer. So this part is like a private concert. (Charlie started out his first lesson by playing part of Bach's Tocata & Fugue in D minor after Brad played it.) Charlie then plays either a classical piece or something in his head. He plays the Star Wars theme, which Brad can't play because he doesn't have the music. The lessons expanded beyond the organ. First, a harpsichord that is in the church. Charlie loves this and sounds great. He plays, among other things, Scott Joplin tunes that he learned as a kid. He also plays some of his own compositions. When there are two grand pianos on the floor of the church, he and Brad play duets, as if they had played together for considerable time. The sessions end when Charlie feels tired and wants to go home.

Brian turned 29 in November. We went through some rough times with Brian during the summer. He was hospitalized after getting pistol whipped. After getting out of the hospital there was a period of psychotic behavior including paranoia. His mother drove him to L.A. after he agreed to get help and he ended up in an expensive facility for treatment of psychosis and substance abuse. A complicated series of events had him go to a mental hospital, being not admitted and eventually back in Sacramento, by which time whichever demons he had were disbursed. He seems fine now and is looking for a better paying job than the one in the upscale deli/café.
An important part of Brian's life is music. He is part of a band, Sol Peligro, which won this area's award for best Latino music. Brian plays the sax. I went downtown to hear a gig on 16 Septiembre at the 2nd Sacramento tamale festival to celebrate Mexican Independence Day. I was very impressed by Brian's band. Clearly Latin basis for the music, but combined with big band sounds and African influences, it struck me as very original. They should have a great future if they persevere and if Brian can retain his sanity (literally).

Carlos and Beth
For photos, click here